Pádraig is a mechanic. He loves the craic and being with his mates. He loves his Ma and sister. He knows a thing or two about Madonna. He’s also a bomb maker for the Republicans. The latter isn’t quickly revealed in the monologue Continuity but when it is, it quickly puts into perspective everything we have learned about the man so far. For Pádraig is first and foremost a republican wholly dedicated to expelling the British and reuniting Ireland as a single country.
Doubts about his stability in that role start to arise when he falls for Gorka from Barcelona. She seems to be a distraction – in fact Pádraig messes up on three consecutive assignments and fellow dissidents Joe and Eamon start to question his credentials and his commitment. So Pádraig is given an ultimate test of loyalty and obedience, one that will bring his personal life into sharp focus and really examine his allegiances. To say more would spoil the tensions and intentions of this sharp piece of writing from Gerry Moynihan. He uses the central and ancient image of the ourobouros – a serpent that perpetually eats its own tail – to signify the endless cycle of recrimination that has played out in the Irish nation and also, now, by his central character.
Pádraig is played with an intensity of focus by the excellent Paul Kennedy who shows us a man slowly being torn apart by events and conflicting loyalties. His passion for “The Cause” translates into something horrifyingly personal as he takes his revenge on those who have sought to destroy his soul and the performance never leaves us in any doubt that he is capable of doing so. Kennedy is also adept at showing us the other figures that inhabit this landscape from the gentle Gorka to the manipulative Joe to the grieving mother; the actor adopts a slightly different stance and/or tone of voice to bring these other characters to life. It is a performance of note and must have been quite exhausting to play.
I wasn’t quite sure of the significance of the set (May Jennifer Davies) which at first glance seems to be a room in the midst of being decorated with ladders, dust sheets and red paint splashes (or is that blood?) scattered around. In any case the narrative becomes multi locational taking in pubs, clubs, a wake, various vehicles and even a beach so it clearly isn’t meant to be anywhere fixed. The lighting of Steven Owen and sound design of Anna Clock help to establish time and place as we swiftly move from scene to scene while director Shane Dempsey ratchets up the tension and helps to draw a nuanced and often searing performance from Kennedy. The Irish idiom does not always mean that the dialogue is necessarily easy to follow, though it lends character and authenticity to the piece. If you find you are having difficulties a fully subtitled version is available on the Screensaver website. The video recording is quite gloomy in places although it is perfectly possible to treat these sections as an audio play without losing any great meaning from the visuals.
Continuity is just one of the online plays available from the Finborough Theatre’s repertoire. It is not an easy watch but has many important points to make about political and personal beliefs and is a worthy addition to the theatre’s growing roster of material which challenges and provokes. It was an early and worthy recipient of an OnComm award – try it for yourself and find out why.